by Te
July 2000

Disclaimers: If they were mine, I'd never run away. Though
I might shoot.

Spoilers: Assorted 4th season Ozness.

Pairing: Oz/Xander

Ratings Note: NC-17

Summary: Sense Memory/Memory Sense

Author's Note/Acknowledgments: To and for the other
components of the Webrain, for I have lurrrve.


Daddy793: Hmmm... Improv me?
Skweezyxx: ice
Daddy793: ohh.....
Skweezyxx: viola
Skweezyxx: sorry
Daddy793: ice, viola, sorry?
Skweezyxx: yes.
Skweezyxx: is okay?
Daddy793: California was very, very large.
Daddy793: (yes)
Skweezyxx: <settling in>
Daddy793: While this was a fact that he'd been aware of for quite
some time, it never really meant anything until this particular trip, in
which he had gone from top down to bundled under every item of
clothing he'd packed, jammed up the heat, and listened to the Cult's
"Fire Woman" over and over -- Uncle Rory's musical tastes were ever
questionable -- in the hopes of provoking warm thoughts.

Unfortunately, the only thing that popped into his head was an
exceedingly Faith-shaped woman made entirely out of fire that kept
trying to jump him.

Which was way more of a shudder than a contented sigh of warmth.

This was what happened when a child spent his entire life within a 50
mile radius of his house. No practical information whatsoever. A man
should not be able to see his own breath within the safety and
security of his chosen automobile.

Automobiles were supposed to provide heat on command -- he was sure
of this -- and yet the Chevy was a big, steel refrigerator with the
 world's shiveriest frosty treat at the wheel.

And yet, although he would've used some of his meager cash to buy
something big and heavy to drape himself with, possibly a trucker, he
knew he still would've gone.

Oz had called, and Oz, for reasons unspecified, needed Xander. There
had been no need to ask why he hadn't come to Sunnydale, but as the
world got darker and colder with every mile, Xander did have to
wonder why he couldn't have come just a *little* closer.

But Xander knew exactly why he hadn't asked Oz any questions, and
he preferred not to dwell on it, but the fact of the matter was that
the words "need" and "you" were directed far too rarely at him.
Sure, everybody was trying their best to get close again after the
Adventures of the Spikehole, but...

Xander needed a smaller pond to live in. Or at least a pond less
encrusted with superheros. Even Cordy had a power now, and his
brain yelled *unfair* everytime he thought of that, which made him
whiny as well as (sub) normal, and and and.

It was much better to focus on the *good*, or at least less
pathetic, reasons to go. See, there had been a friendship there. Or
something close to it. Something heading slowly, nicely in that
direction. Somewhere along the way, Oz had forgiven him, and the
proof had come in his disastrous return to Sunnydale.

It was *Xander* he had gone to, to be caught up, to be listened
to -- "It's like... I have to warm up before seeing Willow." And
Xander could provide hours of warm up chatter, and Xander told
him everything he knew, and Xander was still chagrined -- and a
little angry -- that he hadn't known enough to keep Oz from
getting hurt.

And Xander knew there was plenty of pathology in those thoughts,
too, but they felt better. Cleaner, somehow. Maybe he could make it
right this time. Work on that whole friendship thing. He could
write letters. He still wrote to Aunt Betsy once a month, though he
could admit that he just wanted to be on her good side should the
state of California ever choose to release her.

Still, he could write letters.

And you know, he had Oz's address now. It was where he was going,
after all and as far as Xander was concerned, it was just bad
karma to let anything like a friend get away because.... well, because
you never knew.

He gave up on the Cult and dug through the box of tapes on the
passenger seat again, popped in the first one that settled nicely
in his hand and was treated to...

Waylon Jennings.

He was going to have to learn not to mix his stuff with Uncle

But the rule was the rule -- he had to make it through at least
three songs before tossing it back in the box, thus appeasing the
music gods, so that the next tape he picked would be good.

It was just the way it worked.

Xander often wondered if he had taken too many road trips alone.

Two hours and 6 visits to angry music gods later and he was cruising
through Mendocino, wondering if 8 inches of snow was enough to cause
a flood when it melted, wondering if it would snow any more tonight.
The thought of being snowed into the wrong California was just ugly.
There was no one on the street to ask directions of, so Xander just
drove and drove.

Mendocino was an actual city by the size of it, but definitely one
that slept. Or at least had enough sense to get *off* the street
when it was that darkest-before-the-dawn time of day and the
streetlights gleamed off excessively dangerous looking ice.

Xander turned off the radio and looked around and everything was
kind of... pretty. House and apartment-like, like the ones on TV
that made up Xander's vague ideas about how the Eastern United
States looked. The snow suited the city, as though they'd been
built for each other.

It was almost shocking to finally find Gold Avenue, and number
1438, to boot, as though somewhere along the way the journey had
started to lose its destination. Still, there it was, and there was
the parking lot, just as Oz had described, and there Xander was,
jogging as fast and carefully as he could up the stairs to lean on
the buzzer.

Osbourne. It was just... weird to connect the name to Oz, as
though he'd shown up to school one day in a smoking jacket and
striped silk pajamas.

Xander belatedly hoped there weren't any other Osbournes in
the building.


Which was strange, because it didn't seem like any sound had
come out of the speaker and oh shit. Xander jumped and spun and
faced an Oz bundled against the cold, and brandishing a key.

Well, not so much brandishing as holding. "That's me. Your
friendly neighborhood Xander. Except this isn't my neighborhood.
Um. Hey, Oz."


And Oz smiled and Xander smiled back and they sort of just stood
there for a minute until Oz didn't quite gesture with the key.

"*Oh*. Sorry about that." Another smile and Xander was shifting to
the side, letting Oz join him on the narrow top step.

Xander was suffering major coat envy.

Brown suede and what seemed to be the fur of a large animal. Xander
made a mental note to try not to ask if being a werewolf had affected
his sense of aesthetics. In any case, it looked warm.

Inside and greeted with a blast of heat that made Xander's skin
prickle, as though he were melting back into himself right there in
the narrow foyer with the walls stained just slightly at hand-level.

Up the somewhat too-tall stairs and to a brown metal door, 2A, and
then inside where it was slightly cooler than the hall but still warm
enough to coddle the wave of sleepiness that had somehow walloped
Xander when he wasn't looking. He hung his jacket and first several
t-shirts next to Oz's coat and waited for further instructions.

"Have a seat."

And that he could do, on a somewhat battered couch that looked as
though it had been born to it's couchly life exactly where it sat.

The walls were bare save for two darkish forest-scapes, and a large
poster of Jimi Hendrix that had obviously traveled a lot. There were
things too... *deep* looking to be knickknacks around, things that
made Xander wonder, suddenly, if he was really, well, *qualified* to
be Oz's friend.

Like maybe Giles should be here.

And then Oz was next to him on the couch, proffering steaming
coffee with an apologetic half-smile that seated itself firmly in
his eyes.


Xander took a sip, warm and sweet, no milk -- which is exactly how
he preferred it. All those donut sessions. His beverages were
officially known. "Sorry for what?"

Oz settled so he was facing forward, ran a hand through his weirdly
strawberry blond hair. Xander was never, ever going to get used to
seeing Oz on edge. He leaned in a little, but Oz didn't turn around.

"I need you awake," he said, and smiled apologetically again.

"I've been praised on my waking skills, though not so much as on my
waking and screaming skills." Xander took another sip and felt
immensely *better*. That first hit of caffeine to the system that
makes you wonder why you ever *didn't* caffeinate yourself. Warm
and aware, though considering the length of the road trip and the
weird intimacy of being in Oz's apartment, he'd be jittery later.

Oz's apartment was his *home*, not his parents' house, not a dorm.
Everything seemed much too adult all of a sudden, making Xander
feel just a bit more *slow* about things than usual. "So... why do
you need me awake?"

"Do you talk in your sleep?"

"Not as often as you might think, according to Anya."

"Then I need you awake."

Xander drank more coffee and nodded, tried to see if he'd been
given enough clues to figure out the puzzle, checked his watch, and
decided three a.m. was late enough to be as stupid as he wanted. "So
you need me to talk."

"And listen."

"Sort of like a conversation, then."

"Yeah." Oz paused. "I... I need something from you, Xander."

No hesitation. "So long as it isn't my immortal soul, I'm your
guy. What's up?"

"Don't run."

"What...? Um... OK. I... uh... know you won't hurt me?"

Oz laughed and he sounded like the kind of tired caffeinated goodness
had no power over. He looked sort of... defeated, which made Xander
reach over, squeeze his shoulder. A little thin and hot as a furnace
beneath his t-shirt.

"Are you OK, Oz?"

"I won't hurt you."

"All right --"

"Just don't run."

"I --"

And suddenly Xander was sitting next to half-wolf Oz. Was in fact,
holding on to half-wolf Oz, who breathed hard for a moment before
settling back into a taller, broader, hotter slump.

His t-shirt fit perfectly, instead of hanging loose.

"I made a mistake, Xander." Half-growled, though more Oz-like than
Xander had expected. He'd been... practicing?

"You were supposed to stay human and relatively unscary?"

Oz reached up, held Xander's hand to his shoulder. The fur on the
palm tickled Xander's knuckles.

"You won't run away?"

Xander squeezed instinctively, caught himself moving closer and did
it anyway. Wondered if Oz could smell his terror. Looked at the
broader lines of his nose and decided it was probably a sure thing.
"I'm here."

"I never should have separated myself from the moon, Xander.
The moon... she controls things. She *knows* so much that we
couldn't even dream of."

"I thought you had things under control, though. Tibet and tattoos
and... and stuff."

And Oz laughed, put his face in his hands and laughed harder. "The
masters in Tibet only knew how to sever the connection. I... A
part of me is always holding on. Twenty four hours a day, every

"And if you let go you become the wolf, day or night, full moon or
not." It wasn't a question, and Oz didn't bother to respond.

His fangs seemed to grow and retract a little with each breath.

"Oz... do you know what you're going to do?"

And Oz's grin was wolfish, and exactly right on his ridged face.
"Stay the hell away from Sunnydale."

"Oh, the Initiative is gone. Big battle, government --"

"Tara isn't gone."

Xander winced. "Willow..."

"Has moved on. I know it. And I don't know it at all. I hate it, it's
like living in a cloud of mosquitoes, like being hungry all the time
with no meat, no kill..." Oz laughed again. "Shit, listen to me. I'm
fading fast, Xand. All I want to do is go back and bite Willow, give
her this and take her away..."

"Oz... what can I do?"

"Sit here, drink more coffee, be human... You're the only one, really.
You're who I'm trying to get back to. Who I'm trying to want to
get back to."

"Heh, well we perfectly normal humans aim to please."

"Normal is maybe not the word I'd use."

"Ah, so it's weird human-ness you want. I'll have you know I can do
that, too."


Xander finally let his hand fall from Oz's shoulder, grabbed his
hand instead. "I had a good teacher, Oz-man."

And he leaned over to hug him, took a deep breath of really-not-
human-but-still-Oz and squeezed once, before letting go and
reclaiming his own end of the couch. Oz didn't release his hand,

"In people-talk, we call that a 'hug,' unless you're in middle school,
in which case we call it 'copping a feel.' Oz, I'm clueless here." And
he hated the helplessness, because there ought to be some way he
can answer *someone's* need without.... without whatever.

An Oz was studying Xander's hand, tracing each finger one at a
time. Oz's nails were almost claws, and still almost the right color.
His fingers were overlong. It happened too fast to think. One
eyeblink, Oz was sitting next to him, quiet and withdrawn, the next
and Oz was at his throat, half-draped over him and sniffing and
holding him down at the same time.

True to disturbing, demon magnet form, his cock asked him if it was
OK to respond, and then went ahead and did it anyway.

"Um, Oz?"

And Oz froze, immediately. Pulled back and visibly willed himself back
human again. Mostly. His pupils were a little too wide and dark.
Xander looked down before he could stop himself, and yes, little Oz
was joining the party which was. Which was something he wasn't
sure he had a word for. Somewhere between 'aiieeee,' and 'whoa,'
and 'sex soon!' and 'hey, this is new.'

"Xander, I'm... you smell so *warm*. Sweet."

And OK, he'd never had someone compliment him on his scent
before, at least, not quite so fervently and before he could say a
word Oz breathed deep, eyelids fluttering for a moment before he
leaned in again.

"Can I touch you?" Morphing as he spoke until the last word was a
breathy growl almost into Xander's mouth. Oz moved slowly, dreamily,
never coming close enough to actually touch, just moving in and out
and sort of around Xander, and suddenly he could almost see how it
would seem, a radiating aura of scent surrounding him and Oz
*bathing* in it.

And maybe there was some sort of... even things out... make him
remember... something and Xander moved forward just enough to
brush his face against Oz's and immediately earned the firm,
utterly unhesitant press of not-hand to cock through his khakis and
an extremely careful kiss.

Xander had never really considered the idea that he'd one day kiss
someone with, for all intents and purposes, poisonous fangs, and
found himself wondering why he hadn't. Surely this would've been
in some dream, some wayward fantasy on the times he teased himself
a little before getting off.

Fantasy drift, and he'd certainly had enough fangly interaction to
have assorted vampires wander in and out of his dreams and
jerk-off images... it was just that they never really involved
*kissing*. He moved in and sucked at Oz's lower lip and Oz was
riding him with his palm, using the other to press Xander back
against the couch.

Oz pulled away just enough to shift into a straddle and offered his
mouth again. Tentative tongue over the lips, tracing the slight
curve of his fangs. Oz was leaving the responsibility of kissing up
to Xander, and he found he could handle that.

There was something so *new* about kissing like this, being slow
and almost methodical for the sake of safety but also just to
*learn*. Slow, careful study of what Oz liked or was indifferent
to, what Xander liked to do to him. Reaching up to hold his head
absolutely still and

"Oz, open your mouth."

And he did, with a moan that made Xander thrust up against his palm.

Inside and it was awkward. Wanting to just press their faces
together but the fangs were there but Xander had to get his tongue
in there. Had to taste him. Shifting and moving and leaning and
smiling until finally Xander was at a mostly comfortable angle. One
fang brushing, brushing.

He could almost *feel* Oz trying to shorten them, drag himself
back... had he made love to anyone since Tibet?

And that was... that was something else, right there. Saying the
words. Xander was about to make love to a man, be made love to by
a man. Xander was actually in the process of said lovemaking,
licking at a tongue that sort of... *unfurled* into his mouth. Long and
a little thin and suggestive. Both of Oz's hands at his crotch now,
undoing his pants and slipping inside to hold him there, squeeze and
stroke directly on the skin, almost claws tickling just on the edge of
real pain and Xander sucked at Oz's tongue hard, lapped the underside
with one long stroke.

Clothes, then, and the removal thereof, leaving them barechested,
standing dangerously away from the comfort of the static couch and
there was nothing underneath when Oz dropped his pants. Good sized
cock on the slim side, sprouting mushroom like from the ginger thatch
of his groin.

Any spare flesh he might have had was gone now, leaving muscle and
white skin mostly hidden by the fur of his torso and the looping
tattoo. Scarred in more places than Xander could account for with his
own memory. Something like fading claw marks at his shoulder... *small*
claws. Oz saw him looking but didn't say anything until he'd taken off
his socks.

"I hunt now, Xander. It's the only way."


"Strays." And Oz simply stood there, waited while Xander digested --
whoa, bad word choice -- the revelation. Oz, prowling the streets,
killing and... eating? Whatever he found without a tag of ownership.

"Jesus, Oz..."

Eyes so wide open. Sad and fiercely unashamed and Xander... Xander
crouched to undo his sneakers and slip his pants and shorts and socks

"I won't run." Thought, impossible to deny: Had Oz been hunting
before Xander arrived? Had Xander tasted blood?

Out of his own head and Oz was staring at him, taking him in entirely
and Xander felt... much too human. Unadorned with anything beyond his
own skin and 98.6 and stunted senses. Oz took his hand and led him
back into the bedroom, dark save for the dim yellow light of a lamp
decorated, oddly, with leaping gazelle-like things on the shade.

The bed was soft, mattress clearly on it's last legs though not too
squeaky. The bed was a massive thing of chipped, scarred wood.
Indifferent age and heaviness, just another weird wooden growth of
the apartment itself.

Oz next to Xander, kneeling on the bed and nuzzling his neck, making
him shiver, his nipples spike. Xander stroked his cock without thinking,
flushed hard when he realized he was pretty much jerking himself for
an avid audience. He hadn't even done it for Anya, though to be fair, Oz
never asked to film it and it sounded like a growl against his ear but it
*felt* like a purr.

Oz shifting behind him, tucking Xander back between his thighs, Xander's
legs still dangling off the bed and Oz touching him. Giddy aching joy at
providing exactly what was desired. Sideburn fur against his throat,
chest fur soft and springy against his back and Oz's hard, hot cock
burning its presence just above Xander's ass. Oz leaning over to watch
and Xander touched himself, teased and stroked his cock all over, eyes
closed and moving to the ways that made Oz thrust against him while
Oz's hands roamed Xander's chest.

Blunt, callused fingers rubbing and chafing at his nipples, scratching so,
so lightly and Xander.


Allowed himself three short, quick thrusts and let his cock go to continue
trying to arch against his belly. Oz started moving his own hands down
but Xander shrugged him off. Turned around and found Oz just that much
hairier, that much more bestial. Werewolves were attracted to sexual
energy, the scents the power, the push and pull and sweat of it...

Xander hadn't needed to be told that... some things just made perfect
body sense.

Kissed him, a little reckless this time for just a heartbeat, Oz's rough
tongue making him harder, making him *have* to push and pull them both
further on to the big bed, the plain, cool sheets beneath them, the
blanket bundled off to one side, Oz pushing his mouth against Xander's
chest, less kissing than rubbing, massaging blood-hungry gums against
Xander's skin and Oz was...

Oz was beautiful. Struggling half-creature wanting. Wanting him, and
maybe wanting to hurt him, but mostly wanting to touch.

And Xander had to test that idea, had to pull back long enough to trace
the ridges and feel their own *aliveness*, just beneath sweat-slick skin.
Reach down for his cock, for the difference of it in his palm and just
watch for a second. Oz arching and stroking Xander all over his torso,
baring a bare throat. Somehow frighteningly bare and Xander had to lean
in and kiss. Suck there and mouth and get it wet and be a little harsh
with his cock.

Needing to drive Oz a little crazy, stroke him with the sort of action
he only indulged himself with in an empty house because it just made
him moan like it made Oz moan.

Only without the low, mournful howl at the end of it and the flesh in
Xander's hands... changed.

Xander managed, barely, not to jump. Scooted back and straddled Oz's
thighs and looked.

At an entirely different cock. Darker, longer hair. Shorter and thicker,
smoother and wetter. Oz's scent was high in the air, much sharper now.
Glanced up and Oz had thrown an arm over his eyes, laid out flat and...
slumping again. Stroke to the larger balls and Oz shuddered and his
cock changed again. Something... something different about the base and
yes, Aunt Betsy's late husband Maury had had a dog and that was
definitely a partial sheath and.

And Xander desperately wished for a pause button to think about this,
the ramifications of making love to Oz when his control was just
shattering all over the place but --

"Xander, you don't --"

"I said I wouldn't run."

Dark, dark eyes on him, liquid black and just waiting. Xander reached
out and took hold. Ran a careful finger around the sheathed base and
got very little reaction but around the rim of the sheath and oh.


Oz arching again, as though there'd been no pause, just helpless to it.
The inner flesh of the sheath was weirdly moist, tight and pulsing with
blood. Xander could barely get a fingertip between the sheath and Oz's
cock but he knew what *would* fit.

Crouched down and kissed the leaking head, which tapered more
dramatically now and tasted so *sharp* and Xander's mouth flooded with
spit and he had to suck. Took the head in his mouth, still holding and
teasing the base and licked and sucked and tried a graze of his teeth.
And the sounds Oz was making... Xander hoped to God the walls were

Nobody had to *know* he was sucking off a werewolf. And humping
said werewolf's leg and Xander abruptly giggled around the cock in
his mouth and Oz yipped a laugh in return because he knew, he had
to know. Sucked hard for a long moment before pulling off, drool
and pre-come leaving long threads connecting him to Oz's cock.

Oz watching and so hard and eyes so wide and hungry and Xander did
what he wanted. Pushed Oz's cock down a little and slipped his tongue
between sheath and cock and Oz jerked so hard Xander had to hold his
hips down but he didn't stop. Tongued and nibbled at the edges which
shortened and lengthened as Oz writhed and Xander's cock was
screaming for attention and Oz's cock was drooling all over his

And he wanted to stop, crawl up and hump something more important but
it was like the inside of Cordelia's elbows and the base of Anya's spine.
He *had* to stay there, take Oz as far as he could go, not stop til it
hurt, til it felt so good Oz had to just...

Tongue deep and caught almost painfully and Xander just flexed, shifted
over enough that he could heft and toy with Oz's balls at the same time
and Oz's big hand was in his hair and then gone. Sound of tearing sheets
and Xander was definitely humping fur now. Fur tickling his nose, making
soft growing noises and Xander finally had to pull out when Oz's cock
thickened too much for him to abuse the sheath anymore.

Xander had just enough time to lift his head entirely before Oz pounced
on him, wrestled him fully onto the bed. Crouched over him, hair long,
almost unrecognizable except also not. Still Oz under the hair, Oz
hungry for him, Oz holding him down with one hand and gathering the
pre-come all over his cock and Xander's throat with the other.

Reaching back to slick himself, eyes closed and riding his own fingers,
doing it fast and hard and Xander reached back to help. Slipped into
incredible heat and too little slickness. Spat in his hand several times
and tried it again and Oz just... gave it up.

Slumped forward, panting and growling in his chest, balls brushing
against Xander's cock over and over, working himself back and back
for a long lost moment and Xander wanted *everything* and got it
when Oz unceremoniously slapped his hand aside, positioned himself,
and sat on Xander's cock.

Which was *fuck* and Oz had his head thrown back, thighs
trembling on the edge of a flex which made Xander curse again when
it happened. Driving him deep and holding him there. Tighter than
anything he'd ever felt, hot and maddening friction. Fist of hot flesh
but better, so much better and Xander had to fist the sheets when Oz
started to move.

Crouched over him and fucking himself with short strokes that just
made Xander.... made him need to...

Flipped Oz off of him and dove in between his legs. Sucked at Oz's
cock again, making it rock hard again, making it leak and taking that
and spit and slicking his cock better, probing at the inside of him, and
Anya loved to do --


No more waiting then, just brought one of Oz's legs up over his
shoulder and thrust back in, hard and deep and long. Again and again
and watching Oz lose it just a little more with each thrust, slipping
forward and back until Xander could permanently see the ghost of
Oz's regular features overlaid on the wolf-face, the wolf-face over
the man and it was all so fucking *hot*.

Like taking without care, fucking hard and fast and the taking is the
gift, the need and Xander wanted so badly to just crawl inside
somehow. Claw and bite and fuck from the inside and yeah, yeah, taste
the way Oz hunted. Fur and skin and musk and high heat and Oz
reaching between them, jerking himself ragged and fast, and Xander
moving fast tight circles, momentum and sex-viciousness driving him
harder and he never...

Never wanted to do anything but *this*. Right here and *inside* Oz
and yes, human, only human or he could stop, hold onto this for just
a little --

Shocked himself with a helpless grunt that somehow made every nerve
ending sit up and take notice and scream beautiful obscenities like the
way he was just saying "yes, oh fuck fuck *yes*" over and over. Looked
down and Oz... oh arched into a bow and *he* was doing this, no one
else no one no one --

Came and came, jerking and groaning and squeezing Oz's shoulder much
too hard and then barely, just barely managing not to collapse all the
way, Oz's hand and cock trapped a little between them and Oz's fur
all wet and curling with sweat... so fucking gorgeous.

"Come with me inside you --"

And barely managed to jump back and away before Oz's teeth clicked
over where his shoulder would've been.

"Fuck --"

Oz leaped up, but couldn't stop stroking himself, didn't pursue but
just watched Xander with unreadable eyes that sent jolts to
Xander's throat, groin, trip-hammering heart and yes, OK, something
more won't run Jesus no won't run. Moved back, coming in low and
slow.  Curled up and opened his mouth for Oz's jutting cock, kissing
the moving fist just once before Oz shot with a growl in and
around Xander's mouth.

And Xander knew better than to move right away. Laid there, still,
swallowing what he could but not bothering to lick anything else
away because Oz needed... Oz needed.

Few moments of panting silence, heavy drops of sweat falling on
Xander from above. And then Oz pushing him on to his back and
shockingly bare. Pale white skin and marching tattoo and kissing
him and kissing him.

Pulling back to search Xander's face for some expression, or
perhaps just for the droplets of come left behind. Lapping him
with short, eager human tongue. Tangling their legs together
and kissing until Xander passed out.

And Xander was first aware of simple black, holding him close
but being slowly broken by Oz's low, ironic voice, soft
against Xander's ear. "... my Aunt Viola. She bought it outright
a year ago, but gave it to me as soon as I showed up on her

"She's a werewolf, too."

Blinking and half-lost. "That had to be... nice?"

Xander could feel Oz's smile. "Yeah. Yeah it was. My parents
weren't too happy with my break from the old ways, but Aunt
Vi understood."

Xander snuggled closer and tried to remember if he'd dreamed any
other conversation, wanted to ask but didn't want to interrupt.

"She'd been in love, too. But the man -- she never mentioned a
name -- found out she was a werewolf anyway and left. Vi counts
it as love that he didn't expose her to the world..."

"Did she ever get married?"

"No, but... she gave me this apartment because she's running now.
With the pack."


"She understood, and she understood that she'd never really be
human. Looked at me with the saddest smile and just... left me the
keys and drove off North. To the forests."

Silence then, Oz shifting away for a moment, then back. Getting
comfortable with an arm slung over Xander's chest.



"You should feel free to jump in with a witty comment, thus
breaking the tension."

"Um... is that a sheath on your dick or are you just happy to
see me?"

Oz punched him awkwardly, but with feeling.

"Hey, I made an effort!"

"It's true, you did. I take back my punch." Smoothed the sore
spot on Xander's chest.

Xander shifted with mock-satisfaction. "I thought so."

More silence, the dim lamp shut off of its own volition --
"Aunt Vi believed in the power of timers to keep burglars away."

"As opposed to her own wolfly goodness?"

"Well, that was a given."

"Oz... you don't have to go... running."

"There's a chance the packs won't let me in, anyway."

"Fuck, *Oz*..."

"I won't be staying here long, Xander."

Xander bit back his first four responses before allowing himself
to say anything. "That's fair... but where do I send my
incriminating homoerotic postcards to, next?"

"I don't know."

And that just... that was just *wrong*, and unfair, and fuck but "Oz,
there's more than one kind of running. You've got too many people
who care about you to just bail. Again."

Low growl from beside him, calming into a rueful chuckle. "I know. I
*know*, but... I feel like the Little Mermaid."

"You want shells for your breasts?"

"Nah. Well, maybe. No, I was thinking of the original story. The
witch granted the Mermaid's wish, gave her legs and all, but
every step was like walking on knives, and she could never go back
home, and I'm pretty sure she never gets the prince."

"Well, that's... depressing."

"It was this whole morality tale about trying to be something
you're not."

"So you've cursed yourself for life. That's no reason to *give
up*, Oz.

"No, wait, it is."

"This is what I was thinking."

"So you're just going to, what? Hop back in the van and travel
the world being hairy and depressed?"

"That seems to be the essence of 'giving up,' yes."

"There are other ways, Oz."


"Well, yes, but also no."

"Talk to me."

"I can do that. Oh, you meant now. Um. You don't have to...
you don't have to be alone." There it was.

And yeah, that was definitely the bottom falling out of things,
because hey, Xander had just made another promise. Of something.

Oz stiffened but didn't let go. "If you had been slower you'd be
a werewolf right now."

"Before tonight, when's the last time you got any?"


"And the last time you got in any violence and ignore that question
because --"


"Yeah, that."

"How do you feel right now? Wolfy? Hungry? Predatory?"

"You're suggesting that a good fuck will keep the werewolf at

"I'm saying... the more you relax, the less you need to. So wolf
out at home. Hunt strays. Get laid."

"Mmmph. I'll pay your gas bills and *fuck*." Oz sat up, flipped on
the equally dim overhead light and just stared down at Xander,
still and utterly expressive of irritatation. It was... strange and
less scary than the wolf.

"I could have cursed you to this."

"I could have dealt. Oz... look, whatever... this turns out to be,
I refuse to lose a friend."

Oz's hand on his chest, just resting there, warm and human. "Xander.
I am so fucking scared."

And the only thing to do was sit up, wrap his arms around Oz and
pull him close. "I know. Just let me... *us* help you. It doesn't
have to be this big Angel-style Angstical Mystery tour, man."

Oz snickered softly. "Can I still have the coat?"

"Get in line, pal." Squeezed him a little tighter. "Oz, let me be
here for you. I can do the hereness. It's my superpower."

"The Comforter?"

"That's *Comfortidor* to you, mister."

"No, I can see it. American Maid, Feral Boy, and you, fighting
evil with soft, downy goodness."

"Cuddle my justice, evildoer!"


Another silence, punctuated only by what had somehow become the
world's most aggressive ticking clock.

"I don't want you to leave, Xander."

"That makes two of us. That's what the cool kids call *agreement*.
Cocoa now?"

"It's not that easy --"

"Nothing ever is."

"Xander, I can't drag you --"

Xander pushed Oz off and stood. "If you say just one fucking
word about protecting me, Oz, I swear to God I'll walk out
right now.

"Even Jimmy Olsen grew up eventually, Oz. I can make my own
decisions, and yeah, I can take care of myself. One way or

"And you know what? People without superpowers do that every
single goddamned *day*."

"I'm allowed to care about you, Xander. I don't want you hurt."

"You're not allowed to make my decisions. You want me here,
with you. I want to be here."

"I'm in love with Willow."

"And I have Anya. But Oz, even without the sex -- which I'm
scheduled to start freaking about in approximately 7 hours, by
the way -- I need to be here, too. Don't you see?"

And winced and wanted to turn away, because apparently, he
hadn't been obvious enough before, he had to keep slapping Oz
with it about the head and shoulders until he finally took that
one long look at Xander and saw him as the sucking vortex of
need he was. But Xander didn't turn, because that would maybe
count as running.

Because he wanted to watch Oz prove him wrong.

"You think you're selfish."

Xander flushed hard. "You think I only want to help you because
I'm on some altruistic pity Oz trip."

"Are we wrong?"

"Your honor, as attorney for the defense, I would like these cases

"Sorry, can't do that. Always leads to mistrial." Humor and
something... else.

Open and bleak and Xander abruotly understood that Oz had built
himself half of an escape hatch and needed Xander to do the rest.
Which was... God, he didn't want to lie, and Oz didn't, couldn't
understand how being nice sometimes had nothing to do with
anything but the person being nice. But.

Xander took a deep breath. "Yeah. Yeah, Oz. We're wrong."

Oz nodded. Scrubbed a hand through his hair and Xander wanted
to touch the white skin, the clever calloused human fingers that
settled gently against his chest, dry and cool. And just stayed

Xander covered Oz's hand with his own. "So..."





Continue to Homing.